How to Lead Organization Change and get the Full Support of Your Team

by | Sep 6, 2016

exec_coach_blog_dec_17The ability to lead organizational change management with the full support of your team is one of the most critical yet challenging aspects of leadership, and managing the process requires patience.

Reactions to impending change can run the gamut—from full enthusiasm to active resistance.

Where do your people stand along the change response continuum? When introducing change to your team, it is essential to be able to uncover and address any doubts or fears that may be holding them back.

Consider the concept of a change response continuum, which illustrates that different levels of enrollment are possible as well as probable. Achieving buy-in is an ongoing process that will likely take multiple steps. Many continuum models exist, typically including these variations:

  • Active resistance: “I’m not going to do that. No way.”
  • Passive resistance (lip service when you’re looking): “Sure, I’ll do that.”
  • Compliance: “I’m doing this because you asked me to, and we will see what happens.”
  • Cooperation: “Sure, let’s get this done. It’s the right direction.”
  • Championing: “I believe in this. I’m doing it, and I’m going to influence others.”

At a minimum, your goal as a manager is to achieve compliance; at best, it is an acceptance that the decision at hand is right for the organization. When you are able to lead and motivate people to champion your ideas for change, you have stepped beyond the realm of cooperation and into endorsement, with active supporters who influence other team members to embrace your vision. When this occurs, amazing things begin to happen.

Essential Steps for Effective Team Conversations

Facilitating successful organizational change management conversations means staying tuned to what is truly going on in your meetings, and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to voice their position. In such meetings, staunch leaders will:

  • Pay attention to who is speaking. At all costs, avoid a meeting in which one or two people dominate the conversation. When I encounter these situations, I typically respond to a dominant speaker with, “Thank you. Your input is valued. I want to hear the views of others in the room because this change is important for everyone.”
  • Pay attention to who is not speaking. Absent careful facilitation, dominant voices can overtake the discussion, and those who are unsure or hesitant to speak out do not have an opportunity to have their ideas heard. Try to approach a quiet person with, “Jack, we haven’t heard from you, and I know that you have a lot to contribute. I’m going to come back to you in a minute so you can share your views with us.” This alerts Jack, without putting him on the spot, that he is expected to participate and will have to share his views. This method provides an otherwise quiet person time to prepare his/her contribution.
  • Consider personality. Within any group, you will be faced with an array of personalities and different communication styles. It is worthwhile to exercise patience, tailor your interactions to resonate with your entire team, and capture divergent ideas, so that everyone lands on the same page. One of my clients is a strong High-C personality (DiSC profiles) whose mantra is, “There’s nothing wrong with what we have always done. Why do we have to spend time changing?” I asked him to take a few minutes to think about how the business has changed in recent years, and then share how these changes have affected his job. This technique helped him shift his viewpoint.
  • Make sure everyone is heard and acknowledged. As I facilitate the process of these discussions, I make room for follow-ups and questions, always using a protocols contract for meetings of this type. Asking participants to agree to the ground rules and respect the contributions of others brings out the best of circumstances in people and their communications.

Understanding Engagement vs. Enrollment

People may seem to be “engaged in the conversation” but not “enrolled in the change,” so it is important to take the time to do some dip-sticking and determine if that is the case with any individuals within your group.

If some team members are not completely enrolled in redirecting their positions, then an outcome may occur that some of them will actively resist and others will go along with the process only to covertly sabotage the initiative. If this happens, you run a further risk that quality will suffer. Telling these team members, “Whether or not you agree, this is what we’re going to do,” is ineffective because it can set you up for passive-aggressive manipulation — a form of resistance with the potential to scuttle the future of your plans.

As a manager, when implementing organizational change management you need to know what level of commitment exists across your team, and then operate to move everyone forward along the continuum of enrollment. Public recognition of an opponent’s position validates the individual, their interests, and their concerns, and is always a good first step. This does not imply agreement with their position; it only means that you have been listening and they have been heard.

As a leader, create opportunities for the enrollment process to flow. Organizational change management is more complex than saying, “This is what we’re going to do. Get with the program.” Gaining enrollment with individuals on your team and nurturing the project are ongoing processes. When you identify how well your team is backing your plan, you can work to strengthen their support and move your initiatives forward.

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